Covid-19: Support for UK Industries DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Rachel HopkinsMain Page: Rachel Hopkins (Labour) - Luton South)
I thank the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for their remarkable support for businesses in the UK, and specifically in Kensington. The Treasury put together a remarkable series of measures—really extraordinary when one thinks of the size, scale and speed of their delivery. However, I would say never let a good crisis go to waste. It is incumbent on us to learn the lessons of the crisis, and to use them to formulate a new business and industrial strategy post Brexit.
One of the key takeaways from the crisis is that we need more high-tech manufacturing and engineering capacity in the UK. We had a remarkable response to the call to action on ventilators, and I am delighted to hear that 7,500 ventilators have been provided to the NHS by UK industry. However, manufacturing capacity should already have been in place. The same issue exists with our supply chains. There is no point in having high-tech capacity in the UK if we are dependent on imports for basic components from Asia. We need an industrial strategy that focuses on our high-tech industries, whether that be telecommunications, artificial intelligence and technology, or energy.
These issues are not going to go away. I hear all the time from constituents who are concerned about Huawei’s involvement, for instance, in 5G. I hear their concerns about the involvement of China General Nuclear Power in Hinkley Point C. We also need a strategy that defends our companies from hostile foreign takeovers if they endanger our national security. I am delighted with the Government’s response, but let us see this as an opportunity to develop a strong post-Brexit industrial strategy for the UK.
There is no doubt that the period that we are living through has been one of the most unusual that we will ever have. It has been a tremendous challenge for us all, filled with fear and the unknown. These unprecedented times have been met with unprecedented actions when it comes to this Government: 11,200 people in my constituency have benefited from the job retention scheme and 3,100 people have benefited from the self-employment scheme. These are families and individuals who have felt more secure and safer during these incredibly challenging times.
The Government have not stopped there: from the small business grant fund, the retail, hospitality and leisure grant, and the business interruption loan scheme, through to the bounce-back loans and the deferral of VAT payments and self-assessment payments—I fear I could spend my entire three minutes outlining the amazing actions that the Government have taken over the past three months. What I will say is that I am incredibly proud to support a Government who have put ordinary workers and families first.
As we enter a new stage, I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) in saying that it is vital that we put green concerns at the heart of our strategy. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) that we need to unleash our private sector and continue to support it, because it will be at the heart of everything that is good. It has had a very difficult time, and we need to support it.
My constituency is beautiful—it is, as I have previously mentioned, the most beautiful constituency in the entire country—and has tremendous tourism potential. We have talked about those who have unfortunately slipped through the cracks in the Government’s various schemes. One example is Creswell Crags in my constituency, which is a wonderful tourism destination. The Minister is almost certainly rolling his eyes, because he is bored of me mentioning this, but I will once again put on record that we need to continue to support that wonderful attraction and the many others in Bolsover, because our tourism potential is unlimited.
I conclude by saying once again that I am incredibly proud of everything we have done. We have a long way to go to get out of this crisis, but I believe that we are showing the leadership to get through it.